The trouble with Japanese women in their understanding of beauty, according to one veteran beautician, is their obsession with youthfulness — true beauty shines through regardless of age.

This adage sounds most convincing coming from May Ushiyama, a beautician who is still active at the age of 90.

“Youthfulness is only one of the factors behind a person’s beauty, and when you are young, it tends to become the main factor,” said Ushiyama, who has 70 years of experience as a beautician.

“But when you get to your 30s, 40s and 50s, other factors add to your beauty and attractiveness, such as the ‘atmosphere’ you have acquired through your personal experiences,” said Ushiyama, president of Hollywood Cosmetics Co.

Speaking at her beauty salon in Tokyo’s Roppongi nightlife district, she said she hopes that society will come to greater appreciate the beauty of each age group and that she will be able to see more mature women making their own fashion statements on the streets with their own style of clothing and makeup.

“Efforts to be beautiful should be made as an endless attempt to enjoy life. It’s a shame that many Japanese women lose interest in looking lovely as they get older.”

It was 1932 when Ushiyama started working at the Hollywood beauty school in Tokyo, the predecessor of Hollywood Beauty Salon. Since then she has been involved in designing new and stylish hairstyles and makeup in modern-day Japan.

As the representative of the Hollywood group, Ushiyama is a leader in Japan’s beauty industry. The group was founded by her late husband and operates six beauty salons as well as a beauty school.

Given the developments in makeup and hairstyling techniques in Japan over the past 50 years, Ushiyama predicts further drastic changes will come about in this century.

To fully enjoy the changing fashion and diversified makeup styles, however, women need to be more creative and original, she said.

“Japanese women have become better at applying makeup and now sport more fashionable hairstyles,” she said. “But they often look the same. I want them to have more original fashion tastes instead of copying someone else or just following trendy styles.”

For that, they need to have a clear idea about what they like and know what kind of clothes suit them, she said.

Kimono, for example, embody a style of clothing that helps the beauty of the Japanese woman stand out, according to Ushiyama, who has been thinking kimono should be worn more frequently. They are also functional and suit Japanese weather, she said.

“Many women don’t wear kimono that often simply because it is difficult to put on by themselves. That is nonsense. We can wear it in an easier style if we want,” she said. “I want more women to try to break the conventional way of wearing kimono and enjoy their own personal style.”

For Ushiyama, beauty is also always strongly linked to nature.

“In this country of strikingly distinctive seasons, we can learn a lot from nature, such as about color combinations,” she said. “And clothes and makeup with which we can feel comfortable in each season are the fashion style that makes us look beautiful.”

She also maintains that health and beauty are nurtured through good food.

“Humans are different from department store mannequins. Our beauty reflects the liveliness and soundness of the lives we are leading. Food is very important in this sense.”

Ushiyama attributes her good health, which has kept her on the go for decades, to a balanced diet.

“I don’t feel I have lived for 90 years already. Ideas about fashion keep coming to me without ever drying up. I want to dress more beautifully, meet more people and witness how makeup and hairstyles will evolve in this century.”

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.